EM ASIA FX-Most currencies slip as virus spread sparks risk aversion

By Shriya Ramakrishnan

* S. Korean won hits more than 2-month low * Chinese yuan eases; Taiwan dollar firms (Adds text, updates prices) By Shriya Ramakrishnan Feb 26 (Reuters) - Most emerging Asian currencies weakened on Wednesday as a spike in coronavirus cases and a U.S. warning of an inevitable pandemic heightened worries of a global economic slowdown. China and South Korea reported 500 new cases, while the United States alerted Americans on Tuesday to begin preparing for coronavirus to spread within the country after infections surfaced in several more nations. "We are now in an early stage of the virus spread in some developed countries, which is concerning because it could dent investments and consumer sentiment," said Margaret Yang Yan, market analyst at CMC Markets Singapore. The South Korean won dropped 0.4% against the dollar, hitting its lowest in more than two months, as sentiment remained fragile after the country reported 169 new coronavirus cases. South Korean President Moon Jae-in on Tuesday called the situation "very grave" and said the coming week would be key in the battle to contain the virus. The Thai baht weakened 0.4% against the dollar. An investor darling in 2019, the baht has seen a sharp reversal of fortune and become Asia's worst performing currency so far this year. The Indonesian rupiah fell 0.3%, its biggest intraday drop in more than a month. Indonesia's finance minister warned the virus outbreak could pressure tax collection and widen the fiscal deficit this year, a day after the government unveiled a nearly $750 million stimulus package to protect the economy. The Chinese yuan eased 0.1%, while the Philippine peso edged higher. The Taiwan dollar rose 0.2% and was among the few outliers, a day after the parliament approved a $2 billion package to help cushion the impact from the outbreak. MALAYSIAN RINGGIT The ringgit weakened as much as 0.2% to 4.241 per dollar as traders kept a close watch on political developments while awaiting a stimulus package to soften the economic fallout from the epidemic. Malaysia's king met parliamentarians for a second day to try to end political turmoil by finding someone able to form a government or by calling a new election after Mahathir Mohamad's shock resignation as prime minister. "The ringgit on trade weighted basis may consolidate around current levels until we see further developments on the government and assistance package to deal with Covid-19," said Chu Kok Wei, group head, treasury and markets, CIMB Group. Mahathir said an economic stimulus package would be announced soon. He had been due to unveil the package on Thursday, but it was postponed to an unspecified date shortly after his resignation on Monday. CURRENCIES VS U.S. DOLLAR Change on the day at 0540 GMT Currency Latest bid Previous day Pct Move Japan yen 110.370 110.18 -0.17 Sing dlr 1.398 1.3985 +0.02 Taiwan dlr 30.338 30.402 +0.21 Korean won 1215.400 1210.3 -0.42 Baht 31.860 31.72 -0.44 Peso 51.050 51.09 +0.08 Rupiah 13910.000 13870 -0.29 Rupee 71.760 71.73 -0.04 Ringgit 4.236 4.232 -0.09 Yuan 7.018 7.0130 -0.07 Change so far in 2020 Currency Latest bid End 2019 Pct Move Japan yen 110.370 108.61 -1.59 Sing dlr 1.398 1.3444 -3.85 Taiwan dlr 30.338 30.106 -0.76 Korean won 1215.400 1156.40 -4.85 Baht 31.860 29.91 -6.12 Peso 51.050 50.65 -0.78 Rupiah 13910.000 13880 -0.22 Rupee 71.760 71.38 -0.53 Ringgit 4.236 4.0890 -3.47 Yuan 7.018 6.9632 -0.78 (Reporting by Shriya Ramakrishnan in Bengaluru; Editing by Subhranshu Sahu)